Chicago’s Ambitious ‘Pedestrian Plan’ Could Be Tough On Drivers

Chicago Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein unveils CDOT's Pedestrian Plan Thursday

“Make no little plans,” Daniel Burnham famously said.

Perhaps Chicago Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein was evoking the spirit of the famous urban planner and architect who had such an enduring influence on Chicago, when he unveiled the city’s ambitious Chicago Pedestrian Plan on Thursday morning.

At the corner of Madison & Dearborn, Klein along with representatives from the Department of Health, the Chicago Police Department, Illinois Department of Transportation and Active Transportation Alliance, spoke before reporters about the many months of work that went into the over 100 page report.

“This is a historic day for Chicago and CDOT,” Klein said. “It’s been a long process–over a year. The mayor recognizes a more walkable city is a more viable city.”

Aggressive Reduction Of Pedestrian Crashes

Perhaps the most overriding goal of the plan is not just to reduce pedestrian crashes, but to eliminate pedestrian fatalities due to crashes completely.

“Chicago experiences roughly 3,000 crashes annually between motor vehicles and pedestrians, resulting in an average of 50 deaths per year,” said Klein reading from a press release. “The Chicago Pedestrian Plan reaffirms CDOT’s goals of reducing pedestrian crashes by 50% every five years and eliminating pedestrian fatalities within 10 years.”

The plan is comprehensive with a litany of solutions including marking more crosswalks, improving visibility of crosswalks with vertical versus horizontal markings, installing more in road crosswalk signs to remind drivers of the recently changed crosswalk laws, dynamic speed displays to show drivers how fast they’re traveling and remind them to slow down. It includes constructing pedestrian refuge islands to allow people to safely cross one direction of roadway at a time on busy streets, installing innovative pedestrian traffic signals, and continuing to install pedestrian countdown timers at signalized intersections.

Other new ideas include allowing pedestrians a few seconds head start before the traffic signal allows vehicular traffic to move. This concept is called a “leading pedestrian interval” and gives pedestrians three seconds of lead time ahead of motor vehicles. Similarly, the Chicago Pedestrian Plan encourages a concept called “lagging left turns,” where the left turn signal is at the end of the signalized traffic cycle instead of the beginning. CDOT studies seem to indicate more vehicles turning left make it through the light, backups of cars decreases and conflicts between pedestrians and left turning vehicles are reduced.

Plan Means Less Roadway For Motor Vehicles

The report also calls for engineering solutions which take aim at decreasing roadway for motor vehicles with the goal of reducing vehicle speeds which CDOT believes is necessary to reducing pedestrian crashes.

This includes road diets which reduce lanes to install wider sidewalks and bike lanes, intersection roundabouts, chicanes, an road engineering method which staggers traffic in a zig-zag pattern using mid-block bumpouts to reduce speed and traffic volume. The plan calls for use of more speed bumps/humps, traffic circles, and converting one way residential streets to two way traffic to reduce the speed of vehicular traffic.

“Everyone is a pedestrian during the course of the day,” said Klein explaining that even drivers and bikers must walk once they park their vehicles. “Everyone should be heavily invested in this.”

Zero Pedestrian Fatalities?

Ron Burke, Executive Director of Active Transportation Alliance was on hand to weigh in on the pedestrian plan as well.

“We’re excited about the goal of zero fatalities,” said Burke. “This is a goal that is achievable. We want to thank the city for putting time and effort into this plan.”

But does CDOT and Commissioner Klein truly believe implementing the pedestrian plan can realistically eliminate all pedestrian deaths?

“I figure if we an come close to it in D.C. we can do it here,” said Klein who spent two years in the nation’s capital in the same capacity. “D.C. reduced pedestrian deaths by 80%.”

More Automated Enforcement

Of the 250 or so ideas generated by the year of public meetings, public solicitation via the CDOT website and input from city departments and outside agencies, Klein admits his favorite is increasing automated enforcement.

“More automated enforcement is key,” said Klein. “It’s pretty low cost and high return as far as effect. Cameras are just of the tools in the tool box.”

Klein, who used speed camera enforcement during his time in Washington D.C., has been the force behind bringing this type of automated enforcement to Chicago. After state and city law to allow speed camera enforcement was enacted in the past 12 months, coincidentally the deadline for potential vendors to bid for the speed camera contract is Monday, September 10th.

Here’s CDOT’s entire 114 page Chicago Pedestrian Plan.

38 Responses to Chicago’s Ambitious ‘Pedestrian Plan’ Could Be Tough On Drivers

  1. Kyle says:

    Big brother coming soon to a neighbor hood near you!

    And then the Antichrist where you have to have an electronic chip to be able to drive period or you will be an *illegal* driver.

  2. B says:

    “The Chicago Pedestrian Plan reaffirms CDOT’s goals of reducing pedestrian crashes by 50% every five years and eliminating pedestrian fatalities within 10 years.”

    Nice to know they can’t do math. They can have zero fatalities in 10 years or they can reduce fatalities by 50% every 5 years, but not both because they are not mathematically compatible.

    50% of 50 means 25 in 5 years.
    50% of 25 means 12.5 in 10 years.
    And so on approaching zero.

    Then again maybe it is the English language they have a problem with.

  3. Brian says:

    I hate to say it, but I hope deaths go up, just to prove that speed cameras are not the answer.
    That son-of-a bitch gabe klein came here to do one thing only, and that’s install speed cameras and rob the citizens of their money to line city coffers. He doesn’t give a shit about lives saved.

  4. nonya says:

    seems to me that zero should be a vision statement or something, not a concrete goal, because I disagree with them that it’s achievable. There are just too many horrible drivers and stupid pedestrians out there to make zero realistic. Maybe through a fluke zero could happen one year, but I can almost guarantee you it won’t for multiple years.

  5. Jeff says:

    “This includes road diets which reduce lanes to install wider sidewalks and bike lanes, intersection roundabouts, chicanes, an road engineering method which staggers traffic in a zig-zag pattern using mid-block bumpouts to reduce speed and traffic volume. The plan calls for use of more speed bumps/humps, traffic circles, and converting one way residential streets to two way traffic to reduce the speed of vehicular traffic.”

    This is where the law of unintended consequences comes home to roost:

    - road diet leads to all day traffic jams on formerly four lane arterial/commercial streets, until frustrated customers decide to shope elsewhere and local businesses fold one-by-one

    - intersection roundabouts/traffic circles block/slow access by fire and other emergency vehicles, at the risk of increased loss of property and lives

    - zig-zag traffic lanes create chaos in winter, as snow obscures the zig zag lane markers (leaving motorists guessing whether they need to zig or zag), and zig zag turns creates chain reaction crashes that are less likely when driving in a straight line on ice/snow/wet streets

    - while speed bumps are a great idea on slow speed side streets, why does the city fail to mark them with durable bright yellow paint? most of the speed bumps I see are only marked with a faded white arrow, which is easy to miss on a dark side street.

    - converting one way streets to 2 way seems to increase the risk of pedestrian accidents – if a pedestrian only has to look one way when crossing a street, the pedestrian would seem less likely to be hit by a car

    - speed cameras – enuf said already on this board about what a bad idea this is

  6. david says:

    Initially, the stated goal runs afoul of Zeno’s Paradox. (Achilles and a Turtle have a race. The Turtle is given a 1 mile head start. Every 5 minutes Achilles closes half the distance. When does Achilles pass the Turtle. The answer is never. But, of course, this is not the way that life actually works.

    With respect to Zero — this has to be a vision statement and not a concrete goal. Just as the only way to make sure a computer is 100% secure is to turn it off and unplug if from the wall, the only way to guarantee no pedestrian deaths is to get rid of pedestrians. (Getting rid of cars and Bikes and roller blades would not solve the problem…. A Pedestrian could die in a collision with another Pedestrian. It’s not common, but it could happen. A Senior Citizen gets knocked over by another pedestrian, breaks a hip, and that leads to their death… a sadly common manner of death…)

  7. david says:

    Jeff wrote:

    - road diet leads to all day traffic jams on formerly four lane arterial/commercial streets, until frustrated customers decide to shope elsewhere and local businesses fold one-by-one

    My comment:
    Not necessarily. Many road diets are intended to “tighten” flabby intersections where the road suddenly expands from two lanes to four and then contracts back down to two and the cars use more than 2 lanes as “through” lanes. Those kind of intersections actually slow traffic and a road diet improves the flow of cars. One of the problems with “road diets” is that they were designed with the assumption that cars would follow the traffic laws such as not stopping to turn left across a double yellow line in the middle of a block. But Double Yellow lines are routinely ignored.

    And, of course, drivers would object to the most effective method for increasing traffic flow — the ban on left turns except at arrowed intersections with a turning lane.

    Jeff wrote:
    - intersection roundabouts/traffic circles block/slow access by fire and other emergency vehicles, at the risk of increased loss of property and lives

    My comment:
    The studies suggest that as long as the primary routes are kept clear, the impact of few traffic circles or humps is not significant. Chicago is a City of Street Grids with major streets every 1/2 mile or so.

    Jeff wrote:
    - zig-zag traffic lanes create chaos in winter, as snow obscures the zig zag lane markers (leaving motorists guessing whether they need to zig or zag), and zig zag turns creates chain reaction crashes that are less likely when driving in a straight line on ice/snow/wet streets

    My comment:
    The “chain reaction” crash is nearly always the result of excessive speed and improper following distance.

    Jeff wrote:
    - while speed bumps are a great idea on slow speed side streets, why does the city fail to mark them with durable bright yellow paint? most of the speed bumps I see are only marked with a faded white arrow, which is easy to miss on a dark side street.

    My comment:
    Which is why there are normally street signs as well. After all, even the brightest paint cannot be seen under a layer of snow.

    Jeff wrote:
    - converting one way streets to 2 way seems to increase the risk of pedestrian accidents – if a pedestrian only has to look one way when crossing a street, the pedestrian would seem less likely to be hit by a car

    My comment:
    The theory is that the traffic will slow down. As a bicyclist, I prefer more one way and fewer two way streets. The real problem, and the reason for all of these drastic proposed measures, is that CAR DRIVERS WILL NOT FOLLOW THE SPEED LIMIT and thus artificial means are needed to compel the action.

  8. Kelly says:

    I like some of the ideas. The green arrow at the end of green lights instead of at the beginning would make turning left a lot less stressful for me, and I like the idea of giving pedestrians a head start. I also think there should be more education about crosswalks.

    Agree with the previous commenter that speed bumps need to be painted. They’re hard to see and you shouldn’t have to pay hundreds in car damage because you were going 20 mph and hit a speed bump.

  9. Tina says:

    I think someone nailed it when they said there are stupid drivers and stupid pedestrians. Given that, I don’t think there will ever be a completely perfect “plan”.

  10. B says:

    The problem with these various ideas of traffic calming is they have to be implemented perfectly in just the right conditions or they have negative consequences.

    Chicago, like other city governments toss the engineering book away in favor of what they feel is right or what can bring in the most revenue by scamming a public ignorant of the proper engineering methods.

    The result is something like the bike lane on north bound MLK drive at 31st street or the countless bike lanes in the door zone of parked cars. Speed humps and bumps that cause problems for emergency vehicles, can’t be seen at night or when it snows, cause cars going under the posted speed limit to bottom out and scrape, and so on. Humps and bumps misused such that traffic diverts to other streets and goes faster to make up time. The list of consequences for not following established engineering practices and the unforeseen consequences goes on and on.

    BTW the street signs for the b/humps are often obscured by trees, parked vehicles, dumpsters, etc. However a properly designed hump should not cause any problems for practically any vehicle doing the posted limit or less. But the city does not use the correct design. I’ve yet to see a properly designed speed hump or bump anywhere. Supposedly some exist in California.

  11. Kelly says:

    I am a pedestrian, so are my relatives and friends. Pedestrians have to put up with hothead drivers who SEE pedestrians in the walkways and speed up. I’ve seen cars and bikes try to get a pedestrian to walk faster as the bike or vehicle “inches up” on them.

    I worry that the hothead vehicle drivers and bike riders will ignore the new signs and I’ve seen it happen. There is a horizontal pedestrian walkway near 67th and Cicero and I’ve seen cars beep loudly at people who are already in the walkway. The horizontal walkway has a STOP sign.

    This will lead to speed bumps installed on busy streets. Which will lead to more injuries, property damage, and deaths. This “floor it” mentality is city-wide but it’s really bad on the s.w. side, on Archer Avenue going west to Harlem, and south to 79th Streets.

  12. saucexx says:

    Great, another city plan to drive out business and residents. Gabe Klein should stick to shilling for the speed camera companies.

    BTW when do we get the plan for ZERO murders?

  13. Mike says:

    Gabe Klein is the Vice-Mayor of Chicago. Notice he’s been putting on a show in Rahm’s absence.

    It amazes me how Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel surrounds himself with bullies and troublemakers.

  14. The Parking Ticket Geek says:

    Kelly,

    Jerk drivers drive me nuts as well. Actually, those type of overly aggressive morons screw things up for the majority of drivers. I am NOT a fan of speed bumps. I don’t like them. But they do slow down drivers who speed down side streets. So, me and other motorists who try their best to drive safely are penalized for a small percentage of idiots.

  15. B says:

    The problem with higher speeds on side streets is often due to traffic issues elsewhere causing the diversion. The other people driving too fast on a side street are your neighbors. Correct the issues on the main roads and there will be less cutting through going on.

    With regards to most drivers exceeding the speed limit on a particular roadway there is usually a mismatch between the road design and the speed limit. People usually pick the speed with regards to their comfort level on the road. Many equations and tables for road design use very old equations that seem to be set for a model T driven by a half blind elderly woman. Then there is a factor of safety on that. That’s how one gets these mismatches. (very good for revenue to have a road good for a safe 45mph and a 25 or 30mph speed limit) It’s more common in the suburbs than the city, but it does happen. What some traffic calming methods aim to do, if done properly, is to reduce the 85th percentile speed down to the desired speed limit. Making the road and speed limit match. (not good for revenue)

  16. DoR Employee says:

    Mike…

    In case you didn’t notice…

    Rahm IS a bully and a trouble maker himself.

    And for the last 30 years…all previous mayors have been as well.

  17. Terry says:

    I have to say after being stationed in Europe for the last 10 years and living with these exact rules of pedestrian first. When I come home to Chicago I have to say walking in their now is just scary like going into the Wild West.

  18. earl says:

    ya, cities are now tryint to sneak in more camera tickets under the guise of protecting pedestrians.

    they need to take the ear buds and cell phones away from the crossing pedestrians who never look

    to see what’s coming…………….

  19. earl says:

    Rahm is just an abusive kind of guy……….he curses everyone.

  20. Decimus Iunius Juvenalis says:

    The problem of course is that while automated machines raise money, they do not increase safety; the negative effects of red light cameras are well documented in the academic literature. Speed enforcement is only proper if the speed limits are set at reasonable eighty fifth percentile limits, which most in Chicago (I’m guessing) are not. And narrowing traffic lanes to aid bicycles and pedestrians only makes the road less safe for vehicles. So, the plan is lose, lose, lose. Oh, and the weather drastically curtails the number of pedestrians and bikers for 7-8 months a year, but these lame-brained measures are forever…..

  21. David says:

    Decimus Iunius Juvenalis says:
    Speed enforcement is only proper if the speed limits are set at reasonable eighty fifth percentile limits, which most in Chicago (I’m guessing) are not.

    My Comment:

    Bulls–t. The 85th percentile may well be “safe” for the car driver, it is NOT safe for the pedestrians and the bicycles. Look at any chart of stopping distances and reaction times and you can see that the stopping distance begins to significantly increase at speeds over 25 MPH. The stopping distance at 40 MPH is THREE times that of 20 MPH. Using the 85th percentile doesn’t work because the drivers only take into account their chances of being in an accident with another car… not running someone down. The 85th percentile on many larger Chicago Streets would be 45 or 50….

    Decimus Iunius Juvenalis says:
    And narrowing traffic lanes to aid bicycles and pedestrians only makes the road less safe for vehicles.

    My comment:
    That’s not actually what is being proposed. What is being proposed is reducing traffic lanes, tightening up intersections (so that cars dont clump, thereby actually slowing traffic) and improving the flow of traffic.

    Decimus Iunius Juvenalis says:
    So, the plan is lose, lose, lose. Oh, and the weather drastically curtails the number of pedestrians and bikers for 7-8 months a year, but these lame-brained measures are forever…..

    My comment: Seven to Eight months a year? Bicycling is easy from the middle of March until December and no one would be curtailed April through October. and Pedestrians use the street 12 months a year, even when cars cannot.

    Again, the REAL problem is that the Drivers have simply refused to slow down and have forced these alternate solutions.

  22. B says:

    As a bicyclist I find properly set 85th percentile speed limits to be safest. Why? When the speed limit is underposted slower drivers will more often block the left lane forcing faster drivers into the right lane where I am, on a bicycle. The faster drivers then try to squeeze between the bicyclist and the slow poke in the left lane.

    There is a four lane road with 50mph speed limits that I am comfortable on because that 50mph speed limit is decently set for the road in question. There is a parallel road with a 45mph speed limit and six lanes. It’s frightening because traffic is chaotic. The speed limit is grossly under posted.

    The fundamental fact is that you cannot build a road with an 85th percentile speed of 40-50mph and put 25mph speed limit sign on it and expect compliance by force. The idea that force is the solution to problems must be abandoned. If 25mph speeds are desired then the roads must be designed for an 85th percentile speed of slightly less than 25mph so that the speed limit rounds up to 25mph.

    Pedestrians. If you want to make the world perfectly safe for pedestrians to amble into the road where ever and when ever they feel like it, that means speeds no higher than about 15mph everywhere. Of course this isn’t practical. It would even make bicycling annoyingly slow. Actually bike paths all too often get 8mph speed limits because people want to walk on them and not be concerned about what they are doing.

    The idea of eliminating travel lanes for bicycle ghettos is just absurd. I loathe bike lanes. They increase conflicts. If people want to use bicycles for transportation they need to read the PA bicycle manual or pick up a copy of Effective cycling and learn how to operate their vehicle properly. Far too many americans want everyone else to cater to their incompetence and laziness so they don’t have to put the energy in. Sadly it seems bicycling got no less that the usual percentage of such people.

  23. Juvenal says:

    Well said B. Let’s not forget something here: since the 1920s or 30s the infrastructure here (roads, bridges, signals, and signal timings) have been built for cars, buses and trucks) That will not change for another 50 years no matter how hard Rahm and Gabe try — there isn’t the money to much change what has already been built. We have infrastructure for pedestrians — it is called “sidewalks” and “crosswalks.” Chicago thinks nothing of keeping its yellow intervals at a bare minimum to maximize RLC revenue while decreasing intersection safety. By Davids logic the speed limit should be 5 mph everywhere because the impact at that speed is much less.

  24. Pete says:

    David, you are a pretentious douche. Nobody cares about your comments. Your agenda is clear: whatever is bad for cars is something you support. Again, you are a pretentious douche. An American city without cars would be a city without commerce.

  25. The Parking Ticket Geek says:

    C’mon Pete!

    Do we really have to resort to name calling?

    I enjoy comments from both you, David and everyone else who posts comments here. Can we please try to keep things civil despite any disagreements we have with each other?

  26. The Parking Ticket Geek says:

    Terry,

    Thank you for your military service. Thank you!

  27. Jeff says:

    david says:

    Not necessarily. Many road diets are intended to “tighten” flabby intersections where the road suddenly expands from two lanes to four and then contracts back down to two and the cars use more than 2 lanes as “through” lanes.

    My comment:

    Not the case with the Lawrence Avenue road diet, which was touted as away to improve business in the area by drawing more pedestrians and discouraging vehicle traffic:

    http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-01-09/classified/ct-met-getting-around-0110-20110109_1_traffic-lanes-bike-lane-road-diet

    Somehow, I think the local business climate is a much more complex problem, which can’t be solved by turning a vital four lane arterial street into 2-lane all-day traffic jam.

    david says:

    The studies suggest that as long as the primary routes are kept clear, the impact of few traffic circles or humps is not significant. Chicago is a City of Street Grids with major streets every 1/2 mile or so.

    My comment:

    While there are major streets every half mile in Chicago, fires have a way of cropping up on side streets, a significant number of which can only be accessed by navigating around traffic circles. It is for this reason that Chicago firemen have complained loudly about these traffic circles preventing access by large fire trucks and other fire vehicles:

    http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1997-03-19/news/9703190169_1_circles-fire-engines-flow

    david says:

    The “chain reaction” crash is nearly always the result of excessive speed and improper following distance.

    My comment:

    Speed and lack of following distance are co-factors in winter accidents. But making drivers zig zag back and forth in a “slalom” motion can only make things worse in snowy/icy conditions.

    Moroever, I fear that a system of chicanes/poorly designed bike lanes will create worse hazards for both cars and bikes, as residents of one London community recently complained:

    http://road.cc/content/news/48654-lethal-chicanes-highlight-flaws-tfls-road-safety-audit-regime-claim-campaigners

  28. David says:

    B wrote:

    As a bicyclist I find properly set 85th percentile speed limits to be safest. Why? When the speed limit is underposted slower drivers will more often block the left lane forcing faster drivers into the right lane where I am, on a bicycle. The faster drivers then try to squeeze between the bicyclist and the slow poke in the left lane.

    My comment:
    The problem with the “85th percentile” is that the drivers drive for what is safe for the driver, not what is safe for the user of the road. Drivers that pass on the right are reckless drivers and should lose their license. Period. In Europe if you are slow in the left lane you get a ticket and if you pass on the right you get a ticket.

    B wrote:
    The fundamental fact is that you cannot build a road with an 85th percentile speed of 40-50mph and put 25mph speed limit sign on it and expect compliance by force. The idea that force is the solution to problems must be abandoned. If 25mph speeds are desired then the roads must be designed for an 85th percentile speed of slightly less than 25mph so that the speed limit rounds up to 25mph.

    My comment:
    In other words, if the motorists will not drive at a speed that is safe for ALL users of the road, then we must “manipulate” the road to get the drivers to slow down? Sounds like you are an advocate for Road Diets.

    B wrote:
    Pedestrians. If you want to make the world perfectly safe for pedestrians to amble into the road where ever and when ever they feel like it, that means speeds no higher than about 15mph everywhere.

    My comment:

    Of course not. What I do want is a speed where the Cars have a reasonable chance of stopping and not hitting pedestrians using the road in a reasonable manner. This means a speed under 35 MPH on virtually all streets in the city.

    B wrote:
    Of course this isn’t practical. It would even make bicycling annoyingly slow. Actually bike paths all too often get 8mph speed limits because people want to walk on them and not be concerned about what they are doing.

    My comment:
    8 mph is, of course, a stupid limit for bicycles. Its a speed which is so slow that the bicyclist is close to falling over and is well below running speeds. That’s a speed which is slower than Paul Ryan’s claimed marathon time ( a 3 hour Marathon is faster than 8 mph).

  29. David says:

    Pete wrote:

    David, you are a pretentious douche. Nobody cares about your comments. Your agenda is clear: whatever is bad for cars is something you support. Again, you are a pretentious douche. An American city without cars would be a city without commerce.

    My comment:
    I love it when someone resorts to name calling. In fact, the nastier the name, the more likely it is that I have hit a sore spot. I am not “anti-car”. I am “pro-multiple road use”. Lots of Bicyclists don’t like what I say because I advocate things like turning certain arterials into roads WITHOUT bicycles in exchange for giving Bicycles better options that parallel those roads. For example, Irving Park Road could be “converted” into a higher speed arterial with only a few improvements. (Perhaps, for example, getting rid of parking lanes, put Bus lanes in those former parking lanes, banning left turns at a limited number of intersections with lights, and perhaps recessing either Irving Park or the cross steet at major cross streets (Western and Elston come to mind).

    Thanks for admitting I am right with the tone of your comments.

  30. B says:

    David, most drivers do not want to hit a bicyclist. They drive the speed they are comfortable with. Did you know in europe, Germany anyway which is the only european country I drove in, speed limits are set to the 85th percentile speed. The UK has gotten the speeding ticket disease but much of europe has properly set speed limits.

    In most of the US, especially in Illinois, if I go by the speed I am comfortable with I am practically always over the speed limit except by rare exception. When I did so in Germany I was 5kph -below- the posted limits practically every time and never in excess of them.

    Now what I did see that was nuts in Germany was putting bicyclists on the sidewalk. They tried the patch the inherent safety problems with a bicycle cycle on the traffic lights. It sorta works, unless you’re walking or there isn’t a traffic light. So they tried to split the sidewalk into bicycle and walking parts. Not good.

    I am not advocate for road diets. Government is going to cause more problems with such politically driven nonsense.

    I am advocate for sound engineering. If the desire is a 25mph road, build a 25mph road and make it fit with the rest of the system such that the system functions properly. Don’t build a 45mph road and then put a sign on it and have a man with a gun try to make people drive 25mph. Chicago (and the state of Illinois and most county and municipal governments there in) seems to love using poor road engineering to add money to government coffers.

    If you look at the studies 35mph is entirely too fast for good pedestrian survival of being hit by a car. That said I cannot think of but a few chicago city streets with speed limit of over 30mph or one where speeds routinely exceed 30mph where a pedestrian should be crossing at anything but a green walk signal. These are the few streets where I can’t essentially keep up* with motorized traffic on my bicycle that aren’t LSD.

    *This means either doing at least the same speed as the cars or being able to stay on the same traffic light cycle with the same group of cars for a short time, although they pull ahead in the long haul the difference is not too big and not worse than what a slow driver would experience.

    Yes 8mph is absurd. I actually have to brake to go that slow if there is the slightest downhill grade. However it is used, and I’ve spotted such a number of times. I just use the roads instead.

  31. David says:

    B wrote:
    David, most drivers do not want to hit a bicyclist. They drive the speed they are comfortable with.

    My comment:
    I hope all drivers do not want to hit bicyclists. The problem is that they are not aware how fast they are driving. And most drivers over-rate their reaction time and power of their brakes. (And that’s also why many “tailgate”>)

    B wrote:
    In most of the US, especially in Illinois, if I go by the speed I am comfortable with I am practically always over the speed limit except by rare exception. When I did so in Germany I was 5kph -below- the posted limits practically every time and never in excess of them.

    My comment:
    On the “expressways” it is an artifact of the energy crises. On the streets, its because the 85th percentile is TOO FAST for Pedestrians and Bicyclists.

    B wtote:
    If you look at the studies 35mph is entirely too fast for good pedestrian survival of being hit by a car. That said I cannot think of but a few chicago city streets with speed limit of over 30mph or one where speeds routinely exceed 30mph where a pedestrian should be crossing at anything but a green walk signal. These are the few streets where I can’t essentially keep up* with motorized traffic on my bicycle that aren’t LSD.

    My comment:
    A pedestrian won’t survive 20 MPH either. The problem isn’t the speed at which the pedestrian (or bicycle) is hit, it is the stopping distance.

    More generally, I dismiss the 85% number as a basis out of hand, and so do most drivers who stop to think about it for a minute. The question is not whether the “driver” is safe, it is whether the user of the road is safe. And, of course, more than 85% of bicyclists apparently don’t stop at stop signs (or stop lights if that number is to be believed… and I don’t). So if we apply the same “85th percentile rule” shouldn’t we also get rid of stop signs for bicycles? And since the 85th percentile jaywalk, get rid of that? The answer is no, because ultimately its not safe.

  32. B says:

    Speed is irrelevant. Traffic flow is. I don’t want to get hit. The american obsession with speed and post crash damage is baffling logic wise. It’s making an absurd system where force is used to make people drive slow, but so long as they drive slow (and sober) it’s acceptable to be entirely incompetent (and/or lazy) behind the wheel. Whatever results then is just an “accident”. It’s an absurdity to me.

    If a driver passes me at 100mph an entire traffic lane away I don’t care. If a driver gives me three inches at 30mph, or at any speed greater than what I am doing, I am not going to be happy about it. I have had numerous drivers think that it was perfectly acceptable to brush pass me because they were going ‘slow’. No it’s not. And yes, if I can I’m going to bang on your windows, because the ones who don’t think it’s acceptable don’t even know I’m there!

    The 85th percentile isn’t too fast. It reflects the natural speed of the road. Attempts to fight the natural speed of the road result in chaos, congestion, anger, etc. It encourages passive aggressive behavior and worse. The more underposted the road, the more difficult a time I have riding it. When driving an under posted road and some driver who has been dealing with one blocking driver after next sees a gap to pass and a bicyclist is in it, that bicyclist can have problems. The way to solve a problem is not to double down on it. It’s as if people want to make a system that angers and frustrates people as much as possible and then they find someone ‘smaller’ to take their frustrations out on.

    Furthermore the purpose of driving is to faster than bicycling. I for one do not want to give other drivers another excuse to drive slower than I ride I bicycle.

    Stopping distance isn’t particularly relevant when a pedestrian steps out from behind a parked truck immediately in front of a moving vehicle.

    The 85th percentile method has nothing to do with how many people don’t obey a particular part of the vehicle code. It is a method of -measuring- the natural speed limit of the road. It is engineering practice. When someone takes the angle you just did I know they are either ignorant or just simply out of arguments but want to push their agenda socially instead of logically. However laws that are not reasonable are not complied with. Slow speed limits are not reasonable. Jaywalking pedestrians are making their own safety judgments thus in most cases jaywalking laws are not reasonable.

    Having one particular vehicle type not subject to traffic signals is asking for trouble and I can now understand why you want the absurdly low speed limits. You want to make the road safe for you being too lazy to stop at the traffic signals and stop signs.

    As to the separatist idea for bicyclists, it adds complexity with no real gain over simply learning how to properly operate a bicycle in traffic. It’s like driving with a few extra techniques. Irving Park road is a decent road for bicycling. Not perfect but decent. Provided they haven’t put a bike path on it since I last traveled upon it. (I’ve biked more miles on Irving Park Road than I’ve driven on it)

  33. Pete says:

    Eagerly awaiting David’s 1000 word response. *My Comment* – LOL.

  34. Jeff says:

    david says:

    Not necessarily. Many road diets are intended to “tighten” flabby intersections where the road suddenly expands from two lanes to four and then contracts back down to two and the cars use more than 2 lanes as “through” lanes.

    My comment:

    Not the case with the Lawrence Avenue road diet, which was touted as away to improve business in the area by drawing more pedestrians and discouraging vehicle traffic.

    Somehow, I think the local business climate is a much more complex problem, not totally due to an alleged imbalance of car versus pedestrian traffic. This is the kind of problem which probably can’t be solved just by turning a vital four lane arterial street into 2-lane all-day traffic jam.

    david says:

    The studies suggest that as long as the primary routes are kept clear, the impact of few traffic circles or humps is not significant. Chicago is a City of Street Grids with major streets every 1/2 mile or so.

    My comment:

    While there are major streets every half mile in Chicago, fires have a way of cropping up on side streets, a significant number of which can only be accessed by navigating around traffic circles. It is for this reason that Chicago firemen have complained loudly about these traffic circles preventing access by large fire trucks and other fire vehicles.

    david says:

    The “chain reaction” crash is nearly always the result of excessive speed and improper following distance.

    My comment:

    Speed and lack of following distance are co-factors in winter accidents. But making drivers zig zag back and forth in a “slalom” motion can only make things worse in snowy/icy conditions.

    Moroever, I fear that a system of chicanes/poorly designed bike lanes will create worse hazards for both cars and bikes, residents of several London communities recently complained.

  35. Jeff says:

    Businesses along Lawrence Avenue are already complaining that the city’s “road diet” project (taking away 2 traffic lanes on a busy arterial and commercial street, to make way for wide sidewalks and bike paths) will damage their business:

    http://lincolnsquare.patch.com/articles/lawrence-streetscape-plan-good-for-pedestrians-bad-for-business-some-say

    Transit Commissioner Gabe Kaplan (in typical Stalinist fashion) insists that city government knows what’s best for Lawrence Avenue. Personally I’d rather trust the opinions of the local businessowners who argue that the road diet will drive away many of their customers (the majority of whom arrive by car, according to these businessowners).

    Oh well. I hope that the pretty flowerboxes created for this project will be enough to hide the fact that city hall mismanagement has destroyed what’s left of an already struggling busimess community on Lawrence Avenue.

  36. David says:

    The area around Lawrence and Lincoln has LOTS of parking. Two city lots right at that intersection. Another city lot two blocks down Lincoln. Pull In parking up and down the Lincoln Square part of Lincon. With respect to the “road diet”, the decision to install a left turn lane may well result in a faster road. The problem on Lawrence has always been the cars turning left across traffic blocking the cars behind and the other cars slaloming around those cars into the bike lanes. MANY bicyclists hate the Lawrence Bike lanes. This solves that primary problem and now cars should be able to drive without having to be held up by cars turning left. Right turns, in contrast, will not present a problem as the drivers will have to move through the bike lane to make the turn and thus not impede the cars behind.

    Thus, under the “new” system the travel lane should always be traveling as no cars actually turn out of it. Under the old system, BOTH lanes could be blocked by turning cars.

    Maybe it won’t work, but unlike the BRT down Ashland, this one actually might work for everyone.

  37. Pete says:

    Gabe Klein is a hipster biker in a suit. His only goal is to rid downtown Chicago of cars completely. Or to at least make driving so difficult and frustrating that few will attempt it. I guess he has given no thought as to how this will affect commerce.

  38. Jeff says:

    City Hall’s latest attempt to micro-manage business, in the name of encouraging pedestrian traffic:

    http://chi.streetsblog.org/2014/08/12/p-street-designation-for-33rd-ward-business-strips-moves-forward-at-city-hall/

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